The Society

A forum for Natural History

The Linnean Society of London is the world’s oldest active biological society. Founded in 1788 by Sir James Edward Smith (1759–1828), who was its first President. The Society takes its name from the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) whose botanical, zoological and library collections have been in its keeping since 1829. These unique collections are of continuing fundamental importance as a primary reference for taxonomy. They are enhanced by the Society's own rich library which provides key resources for research. 

As it moves into its third century the Society provides a continuous forum for the discussion and advancement of the life sciences. It was at a meeting of the Society in 1858 that papers from Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace outlining the theory of evolution by natural selection were first presented. 

Members include professional scientists, naturalists, historians, artists and those generally enthusiastic about the natural world. The Fellowship is international and includes world leaders in each branch of biology who use the Society's premises and publications to communicate new advances in their fields.

The Society seeks to interact with all those interested in the natural world by fusing new research with the rich history of its unique scientific and heritage holdings.  Our aim is to encourage and communicate scientific advances through our three world-class journals, special publications and events, while reaching out to future biologists through schools and public engagement programmes, providing extensive educational and research resources digitally.  Joint conferences are regularly organized and monthly public meetings (both at lunchtimes and evenings) are held on a variety of topics.  Support and recognition is given to those engaged in scientific study through grant schemes, and through medals and awards.  The Society’s activities thus contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Burlington House

Since 1854, Burlington House has been home to the Linnean Society, the Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Geological Society of London, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the Royal Academy of Arts, as a meeting place for the arts and sciences. 

The Society moved into the original Burlington House in 1857 and occupied part of what was then the town house of the Boyle family. The town house was originally built for Lord Burlington by Sir James Denham, surveyor of the works to Charles II, and was visited by Samuel Pepys in 1668. Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington (1695–1753), put on a new south front and added an Italianate colonnade with archway entrance to the front courtyard. The house passed to the Duke of Devonshire in 1753 who built the Burlington Arcade on adjacent land.

In 1854 the house and gardens were purchased by the Government. In 1856 the Royal Society, the Chemical Society and the Linnean Society were permitted to occupy the rooms as a result of a Memorandum issued by Earl Rose, President of the Royal Society, recommending that the Government provide accomodation "under one roof" for the Learned Societies, an idea which was welcomed by Prince Albert. Various plans for the use of the premises were considered, then in 1867 the Government leased the main building to the Royal Academy of Arts and allocated funds towards new premises for the Learned Societies in purpose-built wings around the courtyard. The architects for the Learned Society rooms were Messrs, Banks and Barry. The Linnean Society moved into its new rooms in November 1873.